10 Macro Photographs Highlight Intricate Beauty of Butterfly Wings

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This up-close look at a Hamadryas butterfly consists of 2,100 separate exposures combined into a single photograph. (Photo: Chris Perani)

Whether it's a bright-orange monarch or an electric-blue morpho, butterflies are popular and beloved because they have such beautifully detailed wings.

Chris Perani loves photographing butterflies and first learned to appreciate butterflies even more when he visited the San Francisco Academy of Science and noticed a table full of microscopes and butterfly wings.

"Here I could see every detail in their wings," Perani told MNN. "I knew instantly this was going to be my next project, shooting extreme macro of insects."

While Perani has never attempted to photograph macro images of insects before, he has long been fascinated with photographing things people can't easily see with the naked eye. "I photographed water balloons popping, water drops colliding and inks mixing in water. I was obsessed with the challenge of putting nature in motion and trying to capture the right moment to show something dynamic in a small range."

His first foray into photographing insects began with motion. "Starting with insects, I was amazed by the beauty and complexity in such small creatures. While enjoying the challenge of capturing moving insects in flight, I soon became frustrated with the limited amount of detail I captured of their bodies."

After Perani's trip to the San Francisco Academy of Science, he researched how to take pictures in microscopic detail and quickly learned how challenging it was.

"This was the most frustrating experiment of all. The slightest mistake (a speck of dust, the movement of light) would ruin a photo and hours of work."

Each image below consists of 2,100 separate exposures combined into a single photograph. Perani only moved his camera three microns per photo in order to achieve the correct focus across the thickness. Once he has every exposure he needs, he builds the photograph like a puzzle.

Even though it took him months to fine-tune and perfect his craft, Perani said it feels like second nature.

"Just as years before I had the passion for creating micro worlds, now I have the passion for the colors and detail we see in everyday objects or creatures."

This is what the wings of an Atlas moth — Attacus Atlas — look like in macro. (Photo: Chris Perani)
A close-up look at the Imperial Blue Charaxes butterfly. (Photo: Chris Perani)
Native to the Amazon and from the family Nymphalidae, this is a green Nessaea hewitsoni verso butterfly. (Photo: Chris Perani)
A macro photo of the wings on an Indonesian Cethosia hypsea butterfly. (Photo: Chris Perani)
Native to Africa, the Hypolimnas salmacis butterfly is also called the blue diadem. (Photo: Chris Perani)
Blue morpho butterflies are native to the Amazon. Here's a macro look at a Peruvian morpho didius. (Photo: Chris Perani)
Another macro look at a Peruvian morpho didius, though this one shows a vein. (Photo: Chris Perani)
It's easy to see why this is called the Madagascan sunset moth. Its colors look just like a glowing, setting sun. (Photo: Chris Perani)
Another macro look at the Madagascar sunset moth, or Chrysiridia Rhipheus. (Photo: Chris Perani)